April 1st marked my 1 year anniversary as a full time independent game developer. 1 year ago it was a very scary notion that I will be striking it out on my own as a independent game developer without the support of a full time job. I had to do my own taxes, health care, dental, customer support, marketing, networking, development, art, sound (outsourced to 3rd parties), wash dishes, take care of a puppy, and clean the house. Yes being a independent game developer includes house chores and other things, especially when you are staying at home all day.
However I need to confess that being fully independent and at home is boring and dull. First of all, I am usually at home with no one else to talk to about work other than my girlfriend and my puppy. They are awesome at supporting me, but they are not co-workers that share the same passion. The puppy being more interested in treats and making a mess out of toilet paper. It is easy to lose your passion and direction in such a relaxed and unstructured environment where you are the master of your domain. This is my fault though, as I took the opportunity to actually relax and catch up on games, and just chill. Before this I really have had no big breaks between jobs since I started working for the tech industry in 2005. Sure, I had 2 week vacations here and there but it was not like a multi-month decompress and relax.
As a independent developer money was not guaranteed on a month to month basis because of the nature of ad networks. Money was good during the first few months but it began to slowly shrink as more competition popped up and more people started using the Microsoft ad network. Because of that I started doing WP7 development for other people. I worked on the Pizza Hut App on WP7 to help supplement my income. This was a boon for me two ways; it provided me extra capital to keep myself afloat during bad times, and secondly it allowed me to develop my Silverlight skills on WP7 which would prove to be a very valuable skill to have.
Which brings to me another confession, I have not been full time developing games all this year. I had to take a 40 hour a week contracting position at a startup in Seattle last November. Income from my games dwindled from an average of $4,000 to $2000. A big drop in my monthly income, which prevents me from supporting myself with just that (I have a mortgage to pay). The contract ended at the last week of march, so I come full circle as once again a full time independent game developer on my 1 year anniversary Sadly, the income from my games is still not enough and I am currently working on another 2 month Silverlight project on the side, while looking for a 40 hour a week “main job”.
So where does this bring me? Well, since I said before in a previous post that the WP7 gold rush has ended for me. I am on to bigger and hopefully more successful venture using HTML5 and Windows 8. Many of you have argued with me that HTML5 is still too young and currently hard to monetize. But this is a new frontier with a potential 400 million users having access to the Windows 8 app store. I intend to replicate my success with betting early with WP7 into a Windows 8 success
So in closing this mini rant/story of mine. I am truly happy that I have decided to take the plunge. Being able to call myself a independent game developer has opened so many doors that were previously unavailable to me. I have earned people’s trust and respect which has more value than all the money in the world combined.